An Indie Author’s Twitter Journey

At the beginning of May I created a Twitter account. Within that first week I gained 12 followers (maybe it was 11). When the confetti settled, I had no idea how to get more. I decided to stroll around the neighborhood and introduce myself. A few clicks later and I had followed some of  my favorite authors: Stephen King (actually, I don’t read most of his books because I get nightmares, but I have great respect for the man, and his talent, and would read his books if I wasn’t such a scaredy cat), Neil Gaiman, Robin Hobb, and Terry Pratchett. It wasn’t until days later that I put two and two together and realized they probably weren’t going to follow me back, no matter how amazing I think I am.

Time for a marketing plan. The problem was I had no idea how to put one together. In my mind, I envisioned myself happily tweeting away and thousands of people flocking to my humble twitter account to read my witty posts. All I had to do was follow a few people and in no time, I’d have a loyal, engaged following. After all, I believed in the power of reciprocity. Apparently everyone else didn’t, especially one of the big guns like Neil, who was too busy helping Syrian refugees (gotta love that guy. I’m serious. If you haven’t checked out his blog, and the work he’s been doing, you should).

It didn’t help that I had no clue what to do on Twitter.

Eventually, I had a eureka moment. I would post quotes. People love that! And it’s so original. I had pretty much just guaranteed my own little niche within the world of Twitter. Inspirational quotes, writing quotes, happy quotes–who doesn’t love happy? I left the cat quotes alone. Never let it be said that I don’t have boundaries.

When I saw other people doing the same thing, I was more than a little ticked off they had tapped into my creative brilliance. It was my idea! I jumped off my ego-trip long enough to discover I felt connected in a way that only two jaywalkers on the Los Angeles Freeway can feel upon spotting one another. ‘Hey there, buddy,‘ I wanted to call out. ‘Let’s band together in this spastic world of drive-by tweets and bring calm to the madness with our repetition of brilliant things other people said!’

I’m not sure what happened to make me step back and see those beginning efforts from a different perspective, but when I did, I felt empty. The bitter truth was I wasn’t engaging anyone. There were no conversations taking place. No connections. My twitter feed wasn’t social media, it was a digital billboard on crack and I was adding to the mess by spamming a quote you could easily look up yourself, if you were so inclined.

Then I had the equally bright idea to spam notify everyone about my novel. I didn’t do it ten times a day (that would be spamming); I mentioned it, in case you were interested, and only once or twice . . . a day.

I thought I’d be slick, too. I started with, Ashborne: The First Chronicle, a character-driven fantasy tale you’ll never forget!‘ Or something equally cheesy.

I was getting the hang of this! I must have had over 50 followers by now and one of them was going to buy my book. I knew it like a duck knows where to pee. I quickly moved on to bigger and better marketing strategies.

Next up, the quote method. Courage is not a group virtue,‘ I’d tweet with a link to my book. I did have some morals. I left out the, ‘You plucked out one word and took offense. Offense you have no right to! We are all fertilized with shit. You, me, Karys, Sondyrr–each of us. You think you get to wave it around like a banner and declare battle. It is not yours alone, Avanas. Shit belongs to everyone!’ quote (more than 140 characters).

Did Quote Marketing work? I marked zero new sales during my short-lived book-quote campaign.

On to another tactic. I added quotes from reviews, ‘Net: An ambitious undertaking by a début author, but one that she manages to pull off.

Same results.

For a while, I even tried Question Marketing. You’ve seen this, right? What do you do when a madman destroys your world? Take over another! Ashborne

After a few weeks of this, the disadvantages and undesirable quality of my marketing strategy hit me. I didn’t join Twitter to be one of these obnoxious, desperate people begging everyone to buy my book. And even though I didn’t do it often, I hated the feeling I got every time I posted those tweets. What sealed it for me though was the dirt-streaked faces of war survivors staring at me from the television. Frantic book promotion was quite small in the grand scheme of things.

By then, I had moved away from quotes (feel free to cheer). Instead I posted things about my day, funny things my kids said (these don’t count as quotes and are completely acceptable, so saith the parenting handbook I received upon the birth of my first child), or sprinkled interesting articles between the shameless plugs. Not all tweets resonate with all my followers. Some hate kid tweets, I get that, but kids are a huge part of my world at the moment and since it’s my twitter feed, kid tweets come with the package. On the flip side of that, a group of moms began following me and they might care less why Amazon and Hatchette are battling each other. The point is, I tweet about things that are interesting to me. I realize not everything I say is thought-provoking or witty, but I hope some of my tweets are interesting to some of you, some of the time.

Do you know what happened? I felt better after posting something meaningful, or fun. Much better than I felt after posting ‘marketing’ tweets.

Armed with increasing self-confidence, I started reaching out to other people and commented on their tweets. More often than not, many of them didn’t respond back. Doubts fluttered to surface and I questioned myself. Do I have a mouthful of rotting horse teeth and a giant green nose in the Twitter world? Is there some reason these people post and post and post, but do not engage with other people when the chance pops up? I ended up deciding they were asshats and I’ve ignored them ever since.

Occasionally, someone responds back. Or they respond to one of my tweets and I respond back to them. Not as often as I’d like, but some engagement is better than no engagement. The thing is, I wish there was more interaction on Twitter, because that’s what makes it fun. Unfortunately, my twitter feed is a non-stop sales ad for a bargain bin of invisible books, that combined have over 2.3 million five-star reviews. Sad. I can scroll down through fifty or even a hundred tweets and they are all ‘Buy my book!’ or ‘519 5* reviews! Amazing!!!!!!!!! Get it now!!!!!!’ And all I want is one, just one, that doesn’t plead with me to buy anything so I can connect with someone else, or find a noteworthy article shared by people who have the same interests I do.

I’m not alone. Not only are people tired of seeing the spam, these tactics haven’t produced results. If you don’t believe me, listen to some other voices out there.

The Twitter, it is NOT for selling books (make sure you pay attention to the math)

Authors, are you spamming? Stop it! (This one includes a hilarious video!)

Yo, Author, You Spamming Me?? Cut it Out!  (more about spam e-mail, but it’s the same issue)

Does Social Media Help Sell Books? (Nathan Bransford’s unofficial poll)

What puts readers off self-published books? (Perhaps you’ll listen to the readers–you know, the ones who buy the books)

Now that I’m no longer spamming my book, I’m exploring more and more of Twitter, albeit slowly. I take my time. I actually do scroll through the feed, searching for something interesting. I’ve made a few connections. I’m not a master. It takes more than three months to forge an expert Twitterer, but in that time I have picked up some general tips to help others who might have only begun their Twitter journey.

  • I use unfollowers.com for the following reasons:
    • Discovery and removal of fake accounts.
    • I can see at a glance who unfollowed me, specifically spam accounts or ego accounts. Ego-account tactic: They follow you. You follow them. Three days later, they unfollow you. Most of the time, you never knew and you keep following them. Their profile looks like this: Following: 41 Followers: 43112. If you see numbers like that and the account doesn’t belong to J.K. Rowling, you’ve stumbled across an ego-account. When they unfollow me, I unfollow them.
    • I can easily see who has followed me in the past 24 hours in a list that’s separate from all my other notifications. Very handy if I don’t want to sift through all the folks favoriting the same tweets about new followers.
    • Flagging ‘marketing’ accounts. These pop up all the time. ‘Guaranteed 20,000 Followers!’, ‘Stomp negativity away!’ or even, ‘Live the life you were born to live!’ I never follow these accounts back. In three days they unfollow me and my Twitter life moves forward without interruptions.
  • I do not use unfollowers.com for any of the following:
    •  To schedule automated direct messages. Personally, I don’t like them. The world is busy, I get that, but my time isn’t any less important. On top of that, most direct messages say things like, ‘Thanks for the follow! Click here for my amazing blog and here for my amazing book!’ Sometimes, rarely, it might say something interesting. In those situations, I spend the time checking out your blog, type the response and Twitter can’t send it, because I can only respond to a direct message if the person follows me. Which then makes me angry. If you set up direct message bombs, take the time to figure out how Twitter works. If you did it knowing it was a one-sided conversation, that’s even worse.
    • I do not automatically schedule unfollow activity. I’m a human being. The decision to follow or unfollow a person belongs to me and it’s based on a complex combination of a myriad of personal factors. I don’t want an algorithm to do it for me.
  • I’ve learned there is a cap once you follow 2000 people and then Twitter will look at your following to follower ratio. I’m not there yet, but when I reach it, I’ll need to go through and weed out all those that I follow that haven’t followed me back. Food for thought if you’re not inclined to follow anyone back.
  • I’ve noticed guys do not follow back as often as women. Instead, they tend to send a ‘hey, thanks for following. Friend me on Facebook here. Buy USS Eatthisterrorists, the military suspense thriller guaranteed to blow you away!’ direct message, while girls tend to follow back, with or without a similar message. No scientific research there, and not all guys are guilty of this, but enough that I’ve noticed a difference. It’s as if guys think, ‘Another new follower. That makes thirty today, not bad!’ and girls think, ‘Ten new people to talk to!’  Or maybe it’s something else.
  • I do not join Retweet farms, or whatever they’re called. For one thing, I don’t need the stress of someone else telling me how many retweets I must complete in a given day, or if I don’t retweet this person or that person, I’ll be kicked from the group. For another, those accounts tend to alienate people who do want to connect with them, and thirdly, have you seen any results from some source other than the Retweet group validating these absurd methods? If you’ve fallen into this trap, you need to leave now. Why would anyone take on this added stress? Why would you let anyone dictate the rules of your communication to you? There isn’t enough data in the world for me to buy into these programs. My advice to you: tell them to get lost, using friendly words, or not-so-friendly ones, it doesn’t matter. Just get the heck out of there and take control of your own communication.
  • I’ve learned that my time is just as precious as anyone else’s time on Twitter. If your name is John Erik Applecarver from Washington, you like skydiving, reading old-school science fiction and you’ve just written your first galactic spy thriller called, ‘The Agent on Mars Who Opened the Door and Found a Cow‘, congratulations! We have things in common! I’d like to follow you. I might even talk to you about your book title creation process. If you respond with an automated message that says, ‘To make sure you’re human, please click on the following link, upload a video of yourself eating raw cauliflower while performing the Peruvian dancing ritual for frog hunting‘–forget it. Really, all you have to do is check my Twitter feed and you’ll see I’m human. I’m not clicking any special links you sent me in an automated message. I’m not signing up to some random website that authenticates humanity. I refuse to create a user name, password, and profile only to be prompted to follow window after window until I get to experience the joy of typing in a series of fuzzy numbers and letters into a box. To put it bluntly, unless you are Neil Gaiman, I’m not jumping through one hoop for you, much less ten hoops.
  • On the other hand, if you’d like to follow each other on Twitter without all that extra baggage, look me up at @casblomberg. I follow back. Unless you have an account selling Twitter followers, you advocate sexual violence to women (yep, I had one of those following me for a while), or you are some other random nutjob.
  • I don’t buy followers, so you won’t see 76k followers on my account. I’ve just topped 1k, and ever since I redefined my Twitter expectations (a clue, it’s not to sell books), it’s been nice.
  • I don’t schedule tweets or use a software that does. I don’t have anything against it, I just haven’t ventured into that realm yet.
  • I don’t use lists. I should. I think. I heard whispers about it, flying by at speeds of 200 miles per hour on my twitter feed. But have I gotten around to it? Nope. I’ve heard I can filter out all those spam Twitterers by putting them in a list and all the other people who actually post useful things in another list. Worth looking at one day.

 

But not today. Today, I’m off to work on a new weekly segment I plan to unveil on Thursday. If you’re a reader, I think you’re going to love it.


7 comments

    • It is so overwhelming and it’s hard to find nuggets of gold within all the non-stop self-advertising. I’ll give it another year. If it’s just as bad, or worse, I’ll re-evaluate. Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  1. I wish I’d read this article last year. It took me an age to work out Twitter, and I still haven’t done it. And (besides the fact that you kindly included my link) this post great information that I wish 89% of the writers I’m connected to on Twitter would read. Chance would be a fine thing!

    Like

    • Thanks! I wish I had read it, too ;). Not only would it have saved me a ton of time, I would have been able to jump into the ring knowing to search more for connections. Thanks for stopping by!

      I love your blog, by the way =).

      Like

  2. Twitter and other social media is not about the quantity but about quality. We are new to social media but figured out that a more conservative approach is better. And there is a difference between the audience we attract with Facebook, Blog or Twitter, etc. with a marginal overlap. It might be that opening a kind of business/group page next to your personal FB-page works better ….
    Greetings from the Whale Capital of South Africa,
    Noel and Beth ;)

    Like


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